Should You Hire an Intern?
The typical intern narrative falls into two categories. There’s the stereotypical lazy and entitled millennial who complains endlessly about the most simple tasks, creating increasing work for the employer, leaving both the employee and employer counting down the days until the internship ends. Or there’s the perky enthusiastic go-getter millennial whose hard work and innovative ideas adds so much value to the organization the employer is practically begging them to become an employee.
The reality, of course, usually falls between these two extremes. Internships can be great, or they can be a drag, depending on your organization’s needs, your intern’s abilities and attitude, and your investment. Before you hire an intern, there are three key things to consider.
Consider What Your Organization Can Get Out of an Internship
- A different perspective. Each person you add to your team brings unique ideas and experiences. An intern is no different. Given their age, they can be especially valuable at providing a fresh new voice as well as insight on how to reach their age demographic. If you’re bringing in an intern, but don’t want to listen to any of their ideas, it might not be the best choice for either of you.
- Ability to vet a potential employee. Internships allow you to scope out a potential new hire in an interview that lasts months rather than minutes. You’ll learn about their work ethic, ability, desire to learn, and company culture fit. If you’ve got a stellar intern, you can hire them with confidence they will make a stellar employee. You don’t need to be open to hiring an intern for it to be a successful experience for both of you, but it does help (otherwise it is a lot of training to invest in an individual who leaves in a few months). If you’re not in a position to hire a new employee, you’ll need to make sure you’re both still gaining enough from the short-term experience for it to be worth it.
- Opportunity for a hard worker. It’s a competitive world. Individuals with experience stand out in job interviews, making internships appealing to students. They want an honest glowing letter of recommendation, quality work to put on a resume, exposure to a possible career to see if it’s the right fit, all of these create incentive to work hard. Of course, it’s no guarantee an intern will work hard. But the conditions of an internship combined with the right student can make for a great addition to your team.
Be Realistic About the Investment on Your End
- Time devoted to lessons on business tact. It takes a while working in an office to learn the subtle rules of the game: don’t eat someone’s lunch in the fridge, the customer is always right, don’t text in a meeting, all of the things you take for granted as common sense…until someone (like an inexperienced worker) commits one of these business sins. Interns usually mean well, but they can act out of ignorance and cause problems (of course, if no one gives them the experience, how are they supposed to learn?).
- Time devoted to mentoring. An intern isn’t free or reduced labor you can hand projects to on day one and walk away from. It takes time to teach an intern about the organization, job duties, how the office runs, how the industry works, etc. If this is their first time in an office setting, you’ll need to devote even more time to guiding them. Remember, the intern should be growing and learning from the experience, which takes dedication on the part of you as the mentor.
Be Sure You Are of Value to the Intern
Of course internships should be valuable to your organization. But equally important is making sure the internship is valuable to the intern. If you can’t offer these three elements in your internship, you probably shouldn’t be offering one.
- Actual experience, not just coffee fetching and copy making. It’s unfair to the intern to assign them menial tasks and pass it off as work experience. That’s wasting their time, undervaluing their abilities, and quite frankly it is insulting and a demonstration of a poor leader. While they won’t be managing social media or collaborating on accounts on day one, they should be able to expect to gain experience doing similar work to your employees. Be sure you can offer them quantifiable assignments for a resume or interview (co-ran a fundraising event, assisted in the creation of a marketing strategy, etc.).
- At least one supporting mentor. The mentor guides and encourages the mentor, teaching them about their position, the industry, and business. They offer wisdom, answer questions, provide constructive evaluations of the intern’s work, and ensure the intern is growing throughout the process. Whether it’s you or another employee, an intern should be assigned to at least one staff member.
- Compensation through money or college credits. Ideally, the experience you’ll be giving the intern is invaluable. But experience alone is often not enough for an intern to justify the hours they could spend in classes, working, or simply being a college student. Equally important, experience alone is not enough compensation for their work under the law. Internships need to be paid fairly or rewarded with college credit. If your company is in a position to pay a wage or offer a stipend, do it. You’ll be able to attract better quality interns and compensate your intern more fairly.
You Are the Leader
If you want to influence the lives of the next generation of potential super stars, be a super star leader for them. Use your influence and expertise to make a great work force for your field.
Interns are an often overlooked resource, especially for smaller organizations. Hiring an intern is an opportunity to add a great member to your team as well as invest in the younger generation. If your organization sees a need (such as assisting writing blog posts), an intern can provide a good temporary solution. If your need requires a long-term solution, consider Quick Business Resolutions! We offer assistance in a variety of areas, from administrative services to social media management. Shoot us an email or give us a call today.